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GLIMPSES OF THE HISTORY 



OLD PAXTANG CHURCH 



An Address Delivered at the 150th Anni- 
versary OP the Laying the Corner- 
Stoxe of the Present Church, 



WILLIAM HENRY EGLE, M. D. 



HARRISBURG, PA. 

HAKEISBUEG PUBLISHINO COMPANY. 

1890. 



PASTORS OF PAXTANG. 



1726-1732. Rev. James Anderson. 
1732-1736. Rev. William Bertram. 
1738-1792. Rev. John Elder. 
1793-1796. Rev. Nathaniel R. Snowden. 
1799-1801. Rev. Joshua Williams. 
1807-1843. Rev. James R. Sharon. 
1845-1847. Rev. John M. Boggs. 
1850-1874. Rev. Andrew D. Mitchell. 
1875-1878. Rev. William W. Downey. 
1878-1887. Rev. William A. West. (Supply.) 
1887- Rev. Albert B. Williamson, (the present 

pastor.) 



GLIMPSES OF THE HISTORY OF OLD 
PAXTANG CHURCH. 



Before I proceed to deliver these glimpses of the 
history of this ancient congregation, permit me to en- 
ter my protest against the orthography of the name on 
the printed invitation and programme. The corrup- 
tion of the name Paxtang should not be continued. It 
is a clerical mistake in more senses than one. If others 
have committed the error, why shall we perpetuate it. 
Give us the good old Indian name, Paxtang, and not 
the English surname, Paxton — however much we may 
admire some who bear that patronymic. 

Friends op Paxtang: It is well "to remember the 
daj^s of old" — to call to mind the history of a people 
such as we have been summoned to do this bright au- 
tumnal noon, within the shadows of an edifice made 
memorable by age, and by the sacred associations 
which cluster around it. We do not come to celebrate 
misty traditions which have floated down to us on the 
stream of time, but the real achievements of pioneers in 
American religious and civil history. For one hundred 
and fifty years has prayer been made and praise been 
offered in this old stone meeting-house, and as thought 
goes out to the saintly men who ministered to the 



8 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

generations here, it seems as if some portion of the 
subtle essence of all the soul-longings for heavenly 
help and guidance which here has been breathed forth 
by righteous men and pious women during these many 
decades, has entered into the very fabric of this ancient 
church and thus sanctified it. Happy are that people 
who. having a noble history, treasure it ; and with this 
inspiration for mind and heart, we come to do rever- 
ence here. 

The first settlers in all this neighborhood, with but 
one exception, came from the north of Ireland — the 
province of Ulster. They have been termed the Scotch- 
Irish — Scotch planters on Irish soil. "They call us 
Scotch-Irish and other ill-mannered names," wrote 
good old Parson Elder, but that epithet of reproach 
has become the synonym of a people characteristic of 
all that is noble and grand in our American history. 
Recently published works, the authors of which are 
not worthy being named in this connection, have de- 
nounced the Scotch-Irish as a race, without reference 
to authority or facts. The reproach and opprobium 
thus cast upon the ancestors of the people who did so 
mucli for the improvement and prosperity of the Prov- 
ince of Pennsylvania, and for the defense of civil and 
religious liberty, as well as for the free institutions and 
the independence of the Republic, are at variance with 
all that is generally received as matter of historical 
truth. The accusations and reproaches, if unfounded. 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 9 

ought to be refuted, and the character of the men who 
deserved well of society and their country should be 
vindicated. 

But so much has been said of the Scotch-Irish race, 
that at this time we will only incidently refer to that 
people. The " Planting of Ulster " with the Scotch settlers 
is an important epoch, in not only the history of Ireland, 
but in the establishment of Presbyterianism. Their 
life in that country was rendered as brief as it was 
memorable by the rapacity and greed of landlords, by 
the " test act," which deprived them from holding 
any public office, and by the petty annoyances of 
prelacy. Wonder we then, that, in the early part of the 
eighteenth century, many of the counties of the north 
of Ireland were emptied of their Scotch inhabitants. 
Wearied out with exactions, ecclesiastical courts, and 
the deprivation of their civil rights, they came to 
America for a wider breathing space — that America 
which was opening wide its doors, and especially the 
Province of Pennsylvania, where there was less of the 
spirit of intolerance than in any of the colonies. Here 
they found a home — here all men were equal under the 
law. Is it surprising, therefore, that the Scotch-Irish 
should have prospered on this soil ? Our grand old 
Commonwealth owes much of what she is to-day by 
and through the settlement of that sturdy race — and 
I am not ashamed to say it — albeit I claim another 
ancestry and another faith ; and like my friend, the 



10 Paxtanct Presbyterian Church. 

Governor of the Commonwealth, am only Scotch- 
Irish through my children. But the historic facts 
are apparent to all who read. In the struggle for popu- 
lar rights, the Scotch-Irish are ever to be found on the 
side of the people ; and as we go on, we find that here, as 
elsewhere, in the period of great events, they rise up as 
leaders — characterized by boldness, energy, integrity, 
morality, and religious fervor, although at times with 
a bigoted and belligerent spirit. Can I say more? 
Yes ! But we must proceed. 

The first Presbyterian ministers who preached here, 
were Gillespie, Evans, Boyd, and Anderson. The first 
named was born at Glasgow in 1683, and educated at 
the University there. He was licensed by the Presby- 
tery in 1712, came to America, and was ordained May 
28, 1713, having received a call from the people of 
White Clay Creek. Red Clay, Lower Brandywine, and 
White Clay seem to have formed his charge for several 
years. He organized the congregation at the head of 
Christiana, which he served until his death in 1760. 
The Rev. Francis Alison, who knew him, called him 
" that pious saint of God." As early as 1715, Mr. Gil- 
lespie missionated as far as Paxtang. The country was 
sparsely settled — possibly not more than five or six 
families north of the Swatara — but these, with the ex- 
ception of John Harris, an Indian trader, were Scotch- 
Irish Presbyterians. 

The Rev. David Evans, of Welsh birth, was ordained 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 11 

November 3, 1714, and became pastor of the Welsh 
tract, in New Castle county, Delaware. In 1719 he 
went into the Great Valley, Chester county, and in 
1720 regularly supplied the people of Tredyffrin, and 
was sent by the Presbytery to the Octorara,* forks of 
Brandywine, and Conestoga, extending his ministra- 
tions "to Donegal and beyond," to what subsequently be- 
came the bounds of Paxtang and Derry churches. 

Upon the appointment of Rev. Adam Boydf to the 
pastorate of Octorara — the far western bounds, "Done- 
gal and beyond," were confided to him. This was in 
1724, when a small log meeting-house had been pre- 
viously built not many feet south of the present stone 
building. Then the devout Anderson, of Donegal, fol- 
lowed and labored, as the tide of Presbyterianism 
rolled westward — and from this time onward, until the 
thunders of the Revolution reverberated along these 
valleys, the tramp and tread of the Scotch-Irish army 
continued. 

Prior to 1722, the following, with their families, 
were members of what was shortly after Paxtang con- 

* Samuel Evans, of Lancaster, says : "This was commonly called Mid- 
dle Octoraro, it is in Bart township, Lancaster county, it was organized 
in 1726, and in October, 1727, the Rev. Adam Boyd was ordained 
pastor, and he gave the congregation one sixth of his time." 

fRev. Adam Boyd was born in 1692 at Ballymoney, Ireland, and 
emigrated to New England in 1723 as a probationer. In July, 1724, 
he was received under the care of New Castle Presbytery and sent to 
Octorara. He died November 23, 1768. 



12 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

gregation; Thomas Gardner, Samuel Means, David 
McClure, Thomas Kyle, James Roddy, Alexander 
Hutchmson, William Maybane, Robert Brown, Samuel 
Smith, Joseph Kelso, Sen., and Thomas Simpson. Flee- 
ing from civil oppression, in their new homes it is not 
suprising that these people hastened to manifest their 
thankfulness to God, and their sincerity and regard 
for their privileges under a government of free institu- 
tions, by erecting a " meeting-house," dedicated to His 
holy service. Around this log structure were the 
graves of the early pioneers, but these remained un- 
marked. Seventy years ago, it is stated on the best of 
authority, there was a rudely chiseled head-stone, with 
the date of departure, 1716 ; which simply proves that 
this revered spot was chosen for the worship of God at 
that early period. In gathering up the fragments of 
the history of Paxtang Church, it is to be regretted that 
the minutes of the Presbytery of Philadelphia from 
1717 to 1733 are declared lost ; while the minutes of 
New Castle Presbytery from its organization in 1716 
to the constituting of Donegal are not to be found, al- 
though we have the assurance that they were in exist- 
ence in 1876. It is well to guard the early records of 
the Church, but why refuse examination of them to 
those making historic researches ? The truthful histo- 
rian knows full well what to use and what to omit, and 
if my Presbyterian friends will not allow those outside 
the pale of their ministry to go over the early records 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 13 

of the Presbyteries of Philadelphia, New Castle, and 
Donegal, they should place them in the hands of some 
faithful co-laborer who knows what to edit and what 
to let alone. In the history of institutions, as well as 
of individuals, there may be blots which ought to re- 
main so forever. 

By direction of New Castle Presbytery, the Rev. 
James Anderson,* in 1726, gave one fifth of his time to 
Paxtang, and in 1729, commenced to supply Derry 
regularly, one fifth being there allowed — leaving Don- 
egal but three fifths. 

On the 11th of October, 1732, the Presbytery of Don- 
egal was constituted out of a portion of the Presbytery 
of New Castle. The meeting was held at Donegal 
church. The ministers present were, Messrs. Anderson, 
Thomson, Boyd, Orr, and Bertram, Mr. Thomson was 
elected moderator, and Mr. Bertram clerk. The first 
item of business brought before the new Presbytery of 
Donegal was in relation to Paxtang and Derry. These 
churches having united in a call to the Rev. William 
Bertram, which had been placed in his hands at the 
last meeting of the then " old " New Castle Presbytery. 
George Renick and others of Paxtang and Derry ap- 
peared and required an answer thereto. Mr. Bertram 
accepted, and was installed November 15, 1732, at 

* For a full sketch of the Rev. James Anderson, and a record of his 
descendants, see " Pennsylvania Genealogies," under "Anderson of 
Donegal." 



14 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

Swatara, the original name of Derry Church. Thomas 
Forster, George Renick, William Cunningham, and 
Thomas Mayes were appointed for the Paxtang side, 
and Rowland Chambers, Hugh Black, Robert Camp- 
bell, John Wilson, William Wilson, James Quigley, 
William McCord, and John Sloan for the Derry side, 
to assist Mr. Bertram in congregational affairs until the 
erection of a formal session. 

At the meeting of Presbytery at Upper Octorara, 
September 6, 1733, " Mr. Bertram presented a list of 
men nominated by the congregations of Paxtang and 
Derry to be set apart for ruling elders. Presbytery 
ordered that th^ be again published, and intimation 
given that if any objection be made against any of them, 
said objection be given in diie time." 

The amount of subscription to Mr. Bertram's salary 
does not appear, but the congregation, in addition 
thereto, made over to him and his heirs their " right 
and title to the plantation commonly called ' The In- 
dian Town,' purchased from the Indians." 

Hitherto, and until 1736, Paxtang and Derry were 
considered simply as two branches of the same congre- 
gation ; this arrangement was unwieldly, and gave rise 
to various disputes and misunderstandings about finan- 
cial matters. They had fallen into arrears with Mr. 
Anderson, and were ordered no less than five times, at 
as many different meetings of Presbytery, " to pay up ;" 
difficulty was experienced in getting all parts of the 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 15 

congregation to contribute their just dues towards the 
repairs of Mr. Bertram's house, and to defray the ex- 
penses of a law-suit about certain sawed plank or 
boards. These and other troubles of a like nature were 
a source of annoyance to both congregations, as well as 
to Mr. Bertram ; so much so that at Nottingham, October 
9, 1735, Mr. Bertram and his elders united in asking 
Presbytery to appoint a committee " to go into and 
reason with the people of said congregations and inquire 
into their circumstances, as to their ability to be sepa- 
rated into two distinct bodies and support themselves, 
in order that Mr. Bertram, being eased of part of his 
burden, may be able to go on with more comfort in the 
discharge of his duty to whichever part of said people 
he shall be determined to continue with." 

A committee was appointed and reported to Presby- 
tery November 20, 1735. Accompanying their report 
they presented a supplication from the session asking 
for a division, and that their bounds might be fixed. 
At the same time, Lazarus Stewart prosecuted a suppli- 
cation from Manada Creek (Hanover) for a new erection. 
The subject of a separation between Paxtang and Derry 
was postponed from one Presbytery to another, until 
finally on the 2d of September, 1736, it was agreed to. 
So popular was Mr. Bertram with his people that both 
parties were anxious to secure his services, Paxtang 
engaging to pay for his yearly support sixty pounds, 
"one-half in money, the other half in hay, flax, linen 



16 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

yarn, or linen cloth, at market price." Derry prom- 
ised fifty-five pounds, to be paid in like manner. Mr. 
Bertram was perplexed, and asked for time to consider. 
Presbytery gave him to the next meeting of Synod, 
which took place on the 16th of September. Owing 
probabl}^ either to the location of his farm, or the ex- 
tent of the church glebe, he chose Derry, and Paxtang 
was declared vacant. From this date, until December 
22, 1738, the congregation was supplied by Messrs. 
Sankey, Alexander, Craven, and Elder. 

In 1729, the Synod passed "the adopting act," by 
which assent to the Westminster Confession of Faith 
was required by all members of the Synod, and of 
all candidates for admission to the Presbyteries. This 
confirmation of a principle had its opponents, and it 
is in connection with this, that we find, in the year 
1736, mention of this congregation in the confirmatory 
act or declaration which seems at least for the time to 
have produced general satisfaction. In the minutes for 
that year it is recorded, that, "An overture of the com- 
mittee, upon the supplication of the people of Paxtang 
and Derry, was brought in, and is as followeth : That 
the Synod do declare that inasmuch as we understand 
that many persons of our persuasion, both more lately 
and formally, have been offended with some expres- 
sions or distinctions in the first or preliminary act of 
our Synod for adopting the Westminster Confession 
and Catechism, etc.; that in order to remove said of- 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 17 

fense and all jealousies that have arisen or may arise 
in any other people's minds on occasion of said dis- 
tinctions and expressions, the Synod doth declare, that 
the Synod have adopted and still do adhere to the 
Westminster Confession, Catechisms, and Directory, 
without the least variation or alteration, and without 
any regard to said distinctions. And we do farther 
declare this was our meaning and true intent in our 
first adopting the said Confession, as may particularly 
appear by our adopting act, which is as follows : ' All 
the ministers of the Synod now present [which were 
eighteen in number,] except one who declared himself 
not prepared, after proposing all the scruples that any 
of them had to make against any articles and expres- 
sions in the Confession of Faith and larger and shorter 
Catechisms of the assembly of divines at Westminster, 
have unanimously agreed in the solution of those 
scruples, and in declaring the said Confession and Cat- 
echisms, to be the Confession of their Faith, except 
only some clauses in the twentieth and twenty-third 
chapters, concerning which clauses, the Synod do 
unanimously declare, that they do not receive those 
articles in any such sense as to suppose the civil magis- 
trate hath controlling power over Synods with respect 
to the exercise of their ministerial authority, or power 
to persecute any for their religion, or in any sense con- 
trary to the Protestant succession to the throne of Great 
Britain.' And we do hope and desire, that this, our 



18 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

synodical declaration and explanation may satisfy all 
our people as to our firm' attachment to our good old 
received doctrines contained in the said Confession, 
without the least variation or alteration, and that they 
will lay aside their jealousies, that have been entertained 
through occasion of the above hinted expressions and 
declarations as groundless. This overture approved 
nemine contradicente." 

On the 22d of December, 1738, the Rev. John Elder 
was ordained and installed the pastor of Paxtang 
congregation, (having served over a year as a supply,) 
at a salary of sixty pounds, and so for a period of fifty- 
five years went in and out before the people minister- 
ing to their spiritual wants. For that duration of time, 
(over half a century,) the history of this church and 
of its pastor is a part of the history of the Province 
of Pennsylvania, and in order to be brief, permit me 
simply to summarize the leading events. Some of 
these are of great moment, but not at this time and 
place will more than a passing glance or review be 
made. 

Within the church in common there transpired much 
also of interest. Although from the period referred to, 
(1738,) the growth was truly phenomenal — not only of 
Paxtang, but of Presbyterianism in general, yet the 
harmony of the governing bodies began to be inter- 
fered with, owing to the fact that " its ministers were 
from different countries, where to some extent different 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 19 

modes of thinking on the same subjects prevailed. 
The points on which the difference of opinion chiefly 
developed itself, were the examination of candidates 
for the ministry on experimental religion, the strict ad- 
herence to Presbyterial order, and the amount of learn- 
ing to be required by those who sought ministerial of- 
fice. These subjects were discussed with great, and fre- 
quently with intemperate, zeal in the different Presby- 
teries." Two distinct parties were now formed. Those 
who were more zealous for orthodoxy — for the rigid 
observance of Presbyterial rule, and for a thoroughly 
educated ministry, were called the " Old Side," while 
those who were more tolerant of departures from ec- 
clesiastical order and less particular in respect to other 
qualifications for the ministry, provided they gave 
evidence of vital piety, were called the "New Side" or 
"New Lights." 

As might be expected, there was a growing necessity 
for the education of the ministry, and the result was 
the establishment of the College of New Jersey by the 
Synod of New York — first at Elizabethtown, in 1746 ; 
removed the following year to Newark ; and thence to 
Princeton, in 1757. The "Old Side" patronized the 
academies of New London and of Newark, in Delaware, 
under the Rev. Francis Alison and Rev. Alexander 
McDowell, and also the academy and college of Phila- 
delphia. The rivalry between these literary institutions 



20 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

served to render more intense the mutual hostility of 
the two parties. 

In 1739 the celebrated Whitefield paid his second 
visit to America. In connection with his labors, a great 
revival ensued, the friends of which in the Presbyterian 
church were chiefly with the "New Side," while the 
^'Old Side," or strict Presbyterian, perceiving some 
really censurable irregularities in the active friends 
and promoters of the revival, pronounced the whole a 
delusion. This brought on the crisis. The controversy 
waxed more and more violent until 1741, when the 
church was rent into two parts, the "Old Side" consti- 
tuting the Synod of New York. 

Soon after Mr. Elder began his labors in Paxtang, it 
was found that the old log structure was insufficient, 
and steps were taken toward the erection of the present 
building. It stands about twenty feet back from the 
site of the original meeting-house, and was begun in 
the year 1740. It was several years before completion, 
and was occupied for a long time as a house of worship 
with neither floor nor pews; seats made of logs hewn 
on one side were used by all the people excepting the 
family of the pastor, who occupied a settee. The origi- 
nal meeting-house for many years was used as a retir- 
ing and session house by Mr. Elder, and late in life so 
deferential were the congregation to their revered min- 
ister, that on his passage from this building to the 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 21 

stone church, and upon retiring, all heads were un- 
covered and bowed. 

Although we stated on a former occasion that the 
Rev. Mr. Bertram remained pastor of Derry congrega- 
tion until his death, in 1746, we find, that owing to ill- 
health, he relinquished the care of that people, and in 
the latter part of 1745 the Rev. John Roan came to be 
its minister. It was not, however, until the year 1754 
that the dissensions between Old and New Sideism re- 
sulted in the division of the congregations at Paxtang 
and Derry ; although both Roan and Elder had pre- 
viously drawn the lines. The Rev. Mr. Elder and a 
large majority of his people adopting the " Old Side" 
views, remained in possession of the property. The 
" New Side" people of Derry, being in a majority at 
Derry, with their pastor, the Rev. John Roan, " held 
the fort" at that place. The " New Side" portion of 
Paxtang took sides with Roan, while the " Old Side" 
members of Derry clung to Elder. This fully explains 
the following call to the Rev. Mr. Elder, of the date of 
26th September, 1754, and signed by one hundred 
and twenty-eight communicants of Derry and Paxtang : 

" To the Reverend Mr. John Elder : 

"Sir — We, the inhabitants in the Township & Con- 
gregation of Paxtang & Derry, Being now Destitute of 
a settled Gospel minister amongst us ; Being also Deeply 
Sensible of the great loss & Disadvantage we & ours 
may sustain, In regard of our souls & spiritual Con- 



22 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

cerns by our living in such a Condition in this Wilder- 
ness ; & having had Sufficient Proof of, & being well 
pleased & satisfied with the ministerial abilities & 
qualifications of y'u, the Revd. Jno. Elder, Do unani- 
mously Invite and Call y'u to take the Pastoral Care 
& oversight of us, Promising all due subjection, sub- 
mission & obedience to the Doctrine, Discipline & 
Government & Ordinances Exercised & administered 
By y'u as our Pastor in the Lord. And that y'u may 
be the Better Enabled to attend upon y'r Pastoral & 
ministerial work amongst us, without Anxious and 
Distracting Cares about y'r worldly Concerns, We Do 
hereby Cheerfully Promise & Engage to take Care of 
y'r Support and maintenance for an Honourable & 
Creditable manner Suitable to & befitting y'r Honour- 
able Function & office as a Minister of the Gospel of 
Jesus Christ amongst us ; Knowing that the Lord hath 
ordained that they who Preach the Gospel should live 
by the Gospel."* 

In testimony of all w'h we have hereunto Subscribed 
our Names This 26th of September, 1754. 
Thos. fforster. David Walker. 

Wm. Armstrong. Robert Chambers. 

John Harris. Moses Dickey. 

Thos. McArthur. William Stoe. 

James Wallace. Thomas Simpson. 

*Thi8 Call is in the possession of the Dauphin County Historical 
Society. 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 



23 



James Collier. 
Thomas Dougan. 
Henry McKinney. 
Andrew Stephen. 
John Bell. 
John Morrow. 
Henry Renick. 
John Johnson. 
Oliver Wyllie. 
Samuel Simpson. 
Thomas Renick. 
Patrick Montgomery. 
Richard Cavit. 
William Bell. 
Thomas King. 
Edward King. 
Robert Montgomery. 
John Wiggins, jr. 
James Gilchrist. 
James Mitcheltree. 
John Neal. 
William Hannah. 
John Carson. 
James Drummond. 
Samuel Hunter. 
Alex. Johnson. 
George Gillespy. 
Patrick Gillespy. 



David Patton. 
James Potts. 
Joseph Wilson. 
John McCormick. 
John Cavit. 
James Galbraith. 
Robert Wallace. 
John Harris. 
James Foster. 
James Freeland. 
Robert Armstrong. 
Hugh Wilson. 
James Wilson. 
Robert Chambers, jr. 
Arthur Chambers. 
William Reney. 
Robert McCallen. 
John Hutchison. 
Charles McClure. 
Hugh Black. 
Robert Snodgrass. 
Thomas Black. 
Jean Black. 
Wm. Laird. 
Matthew Laird. 
Elizabeth Park. 
William Harris. 
Robert Gilchrist. 



24 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 



John Gilchrist. 
William McAlevy. 
John Foster. 
David McClanochan. 
David Reany. 
John Craig. 
John Wyllie. 
Thomas Mays. 
Hugh Hays. 
Andrew Moore. 
David Foster. 
John Hays. 
Henry Walker. 
John Walker. 
John Walker. 
James Walker. 
Hugh Carothers. 
James Carothers. 
James Williamson. 
Samuel Galbraith. 
Hugh McKillip. 
Matthew Cowden. 
James Houston. 
James Tom. 
John Starling. 
Andrew Hannah. 
Peter Corbit. 
Wm. Kerr. 



Joseph Kerr. 
John Gray. 
William Wilson. 
Michael Whitley. 
Thomas Alexander. 
Valentine Stern. 
Andrew Houston. 
Alex. Johnston. 
Samuel Stephenson. 
Thomas Rutherford. 
Mathias Taylor. 
Stephen Gamble. 
Alex'r Mahon. 
Chas. Clarke. 
Mary Mcllvain. 
James Harris. 
Samuel Shaw. 
Thomas Aikens. 
Th. Strean. 
Thomas McClalen. 
William Prison. 
John McClintock. 
James Davis. 
James Rodgers. 
Hugh Rodgers. 
Joe McNut. 
Widow Rodgers. 
Seth Rodgers. 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 25 

Joe Suoddy. David Jamison. 

Robert Harris. Robert AValker. 

Wm. Galbraitb. 

The " New Side" people of Paxtang secured two acres 
of land about two miles east of this, and immediately 
erected thereon a rival church, at which, and that at 
Derry, Mr. Roan continued his labors until his death, 
in 1775. At the same time a new impetus was given 
to immigration southward and westward. When this 
stone building was erected in 1740, and for ten or 
fifteen years following, the church was crowded with 
devout worshipers. This locality was full of young 
people, active, intelligent, and enterprising. The re- 
ports, however, of unsettled lands, lying far distant, 
painted the south and west as being more beautiful in 
their solitariness than Paxtang had been, and the chil- 
dren of the Scotch-Irish settlers, like their ancestors, 
sought a new home in the lovely valleys beyond the 
Susquehanna, and among the rich lands of Virginia 
and the Carolinas. As a matter of course, coupled with 
the dissensions previously mentioned, the congrega- 
tions of Paxtang and Derry wete seriously crippled. 
The minutes of Donegal Presbytery from September 
28, 1745, to June, 1747, and from October 9, 1750, to 
June 5, 1759, having been lost, while Mr. Elder's private 
papers, being also lost or inaccessible, it is somewhat 
difficult to trace the history of Paxtang during this 
period, probably the most trying one in its existence. 



26 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

Then followed the French and Indian war, when 
pastor and people were called upon to defend their 
homes against the blood-thirsty savage. Then it was 
that this house became not only a place of worship to 
Almighty God, but a retreat from the inroads of the 
marauding red man and a dwelling-place of mercy 
and a refuge from storm. " Many a family mourned 
for some of their number shot by the secret foe or car- 
ried away captive. Their rifles were carried with them 
to their work in the field and to the sanctuary. Mr. 
Elder placed his trusty piece beside him in the pulpit. 
Death often overtook his flock as they returned to their 
scattered plantations. In 1756 the meeting-house was 
surrounded whilst he was preaching, but their spies 
having counted the rifles, the Indians retired from their 
ambuscade without making an attack." On another oc- 
casion, in the same year, they came for the purpose of 
attacking the worshipers in church, but by mistake 
they arrived on Monday instead of Sunday, and after 
waiting several days, finding they were discovered, left 
the settlement by way of Indiantown Gap, murdering 
a number of persons on the Swatara and carrying off 
several prisoners. 

In the winter of 1763-64, transpired the " Paxtang 
Boys " affair — the wiping out of a nest of murder-ma- 
rauding Indians at Conestoga and Lancaster — and 
which created such a " hub-bub " in Quakerdom, that 
more pamphlets and broadsides were (tailed forth, than 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 27 

any one episode in Pennsylvania history. In this con- 
troversy, the pastor and people of Paxtang became in- 
volved. The story is a long but interesting one, and 
there is a " rod in pickle " for some recent historians 
who cannot distinguish between an arrant falsehood 
and the plain truth. 

On June 22, 1764, at a meeting of Presbytery held 
at Derry, Mr. Elder and four other ministers declared 
their intention to cease from active membership in the 
judicatory. This decision was not acted upon by Synod 
until May 19, 1768, when they were joined to the 
Presbytery of Philadelphia, so that for about a pe- 
riod of four years Paxtang was not represented in any 
of the church courts. The trouble arose out of the old 
party feeling of the " Old " and " New Sides," which, 
notwithstanding the union, was still rampant in the 
Presbyteries. 

Shortly after came on the war of the Revolution, and 
the men of Paxtang, who had taken an early Resolve 
for Independence, went into the conflict with heart and 
soul — and from Boston and Quebec, down to the close 
of the struggle at Yorktown — they fought, bled, and 
died for Liberty. In all the wars which have rent the 
land, Paxtang was a nursery for heroes, and God grant 
that the generations coming on may ever emulate the 
patriotic spirit of their gallant ancestors. 

Upon the formation of Carlisle Presbytery, in 1786, 
Paxtang was joined thereto, and has remained in that 



28 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

connection ever since. After the death of Mr. Roan, 
October 2, 1775, Paxtang and Derry were again united 
solel}^ under the charge of Mr. Elder. The congrega- 
tion at Harrisburg, formed April 12, 1787, was added 
to Mr. Elder's charge, as was also the New Side branch 
of Paxtang.* 

* The following papers are very important in this connection : 
On Thursday, April 12th, 1787, during the sessions of the Presbytery 
at Carlisle, a representation and petition of a number of the inhabitants 
of Harrisburg and others in the township of Paxtang was laid before 
Presbytery and read. The said representation sets forth that these peo- 
ple desire to be considered as a Presbyterian Congregation, and to have 
supplies appointed them by the Presbytery ; and that in order to pro- 
mote peace and harmony between them and the Paxtang congregation, 
some proposals had been made to, and considered, though not accepted 
by that congregation, a copy of which was also laid before the Presby- 
tery. Mr. Elder also gave a representation of the state of the case as 
concerning these people and Paxtang congregation. The Presbytery, 
upon considering the case, agreed to propose the following articles to 
the consideration and acceptance of those people, which may have a 
tendency to preserve peace and union in that part of the Church : 

1. That Harrisburg shall be considered as the seat of a Presbyterian 
Church, and part of the charge of the Rev. John Elder, in which he' is 
to preach one third of his time. 

2. That Mr. Elder's salary, promised by the congregation of Paxtang, 
shall be continued and paid by the congregation in common, who shall 
adhere to these two places of worship, viz : Paxtang and Harrisburg. 

3. That the congregation thus united may apply for, and obtain sup- 
plies as assistant to the labors of Mr. Elder, to be paid by the congre- 
gation in common. 

4. That when the congregation may judge it proper, they shall have 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 29 

On the 17th of July, 1792, the Rev. John Elder laid 
by the armor of this earthly life, and entered upon his 
eternal rest. Born in the city of Edinburgh, January 
26, 1706, he was educated at the University there, 

a right to choose and call a minister as a colleague with Mr. Elder, to 
officiate in rotation with him. 

" Dr. Davidson and Mr. Waugh are appointed to attend at the church 
in Lower Paxtang, on tLe last Tuesday in May next, to moderate and 
assist in the above matter." 

On the 19th of June, 1787, Dr. Davidson and Mr. Waugh reported to 
Presbytery at Big Spring, that their appointment at Paxtang had been 
fulfilled, and that the following articles had been agreed to by Mr. 
Elder and his congregation, at Harrisburg : 

1. That the congregation shall have two stated places of public wor- 
ship, the one where the Rev. Mr. Elder now officiates, the other in 
Harrisburg. 

2. That the Rev. John Elder shall continue to have and receive dur- 
ing his life or incumbency, all the salary or stipends that he now enjoys, 
to be paid by his present subscribers, as he and they may agree, and 
continue his labors in Derry as usual. 

3. That for the present the congregation may apply to the Presbytery 
for supplies, which, when obtained, the expenses shall be defrayed by 
those who do not now belong to Mr. Elder's congregation, and such as 
may think proper to join with them ; and should such supplies be ap- 
pointed when Mr. Elder is to be in Paxtang, then he and the supply 
shall preach in rotation, the one in the country, and the other in town. 
But should Mr. Elder be in Derry, then the supplies shall officiate in 
town. 

4. That the congregation when able, or they think proper, may in- 
vite and settle any regular Presbyterian minister they or a majority of 
them may choose and can obtain, as a co-pastor with Mr. Elder, who 
shall officiate as to preaching in the manner specified in the third pro- 



30 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

studied divinit}^, and in the year 1732 was licensed 
to preach the Gospel, although he did not come into 
the Presbytery of Donegal until October 5, 1737, and 
then as a licentiate from the Presbytery of New Castle. 
However that may be, he came to America following 
his father's family, in the year mentioned, and yet his 
only pastorate was that of Paxtang. He was a man 
whose whole life reads like a romance. I regard him 
as the most prominent figure in our early provincial 
history. He towered far above all men in the era in 
which he lived, and his name and fame will long en- 
dure. The heroes of New England are but pigmies 
compared with this giant. Whether we view him as a 
minister of the Gospel, as a brave soldier, or in civil 
life — or yet as a thinker and a man of intellectual 
powers — his personalit}' was extraordinary. There was 
something in his life which called forth an enthusiastic 
and passionate devotion — in a few words, he was a 
grand old man, an honor to the Church of Christ and 
to the race of men ! If this era does not take care of 
him, futurity will — for if any man was born a leader, 
it was the Rev. John Elder, of Paxtang. His descend- 
ants of four generations are with us to-day, to do 
reverence to the church of their fathers. 

Upon the death of Mr. Elder, Paxtang congregation, 
after hearing various candidates, finally united with the 
Derry and Harrisburg churches in a call to the Rev. 
Nathaniel R. Snowden, of Philadelphia, each agreeing 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 



31 



to pay him fi% pounds per annum.* He was installed 
pastor, October 2, 1793, but finding, in 1796, the labor 
of attending to three congregations too great for his 
bodily strength, he relinquished Paxtang and Derry, re- 
taining Harrisburg, which he served satisfactorily for 

*The following is a copy of the original subscription list — but it com- 
prises only the names of those present at the congregational meeting 
held on the 7th of March, 1793 : 

We the under subscribers do each of us promise to pay annually the 
sums annexed to our names, to the trustees of Paxtang congregation, 
or the collectors appointed by them, as a salary due to the Rev. Mr. 
Snowden, for the one-third part of his labors amongst us, and while he 
continues a regular preaching pastor in said congregation and we mem- 
bers of it. Given under our hands this seventh day of March, A. D. 
1793. 



Jacob Awl, . . 

John Rutherford, 

William Smith, . 

James Cowden, 

Josiah Espy, ~ . 

Thomas McArthur, 

Barbara Walker, 

Mary Peacock, . 

James Cochran, 

John Wilson, Jr., 

Andrew Stephen, 

James Johnston, 

William Boyd, . 

Adam Barbe, 

Alexander Mahargue, .0 15 

William Kerr 1 15 





£. 


s. 


d. 


James Caldwell, . 


. 1 


2 


6 


John Means, . . . 


. 


15 





John Willson, . . 


. 1 


5 





William Calhoun, 


. 


15 





Richard Carson, . 


. 


15 





Joshua Elder, . . 


. 2 








John Elder, Jr., . 


. 1 


2 


6 


John Gilchrist, . . 


. 1 








Alexander McCay, 


. 


8 


4 


Thomas Forster, . 


. 1 


17 


6 


William McRoberts, 


. 


15 





Richard Fulton, . 


. 1 


5 





Thomas Brown, . 


. 


18 


9 


William Wanless, . 


. 


10 





Daniel Brunson, . 


. 


17 


6 


Alexander Willson, 


. 1 


5 






£. 


s. 


d. 


2 


5 





1 


15 





1 


15 





1 


10 





1 


10 





1 


2 








7 


6 





7 


6 


1 








1 


10 








17 


6 





16 


8 





8 


4 





10 






32 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

many years.* Mr. Snowden was a profound theologian, 
a faithful minister of the Gospel, and greatly beloved by 
his people. We are honored to-day by the presence of 

* Letter Sent to Presbytery in 1795. 

Paxtang, Odr. 5, 1795. 
" To the Revd. Presbytery of Carlisle about to convene at Marsh Creek 
in the County of York : 
" Whkreas, Mr. Snowden has signified to his congregation in Derry 
Township that he is no longer able to officiate in his Ministerial capacity 
to them on acct. of Inability of body, & that he purposes to apply to 
Presbytery for a Discharge from said congregation which we conceive, 
if he might be indulged in his Request, wou'd leave the congregation 
of Paxtang in a very distressing & Perilous Situation ; that the two con- 
gregations have lived for many years past in perfect peace, friendship 
and unanimity, and that we do not wish for a schism between us now ; 
that if the union is once broke there will be no probability of us being 
united again ; that if Mr. Snowden is rendered incapable of undergoing 
the fatigue of the three congregations in less than three years in the 
prime of life, by all probability he will not be able in a short time to 
attend to two congregations, and of consequence we shall be lefc with- 
out a pastor and the means of giving a call to another. We, therefore, 
pray to be considered as united with Derry, and that if Mr. Snowden 
should insist on being disunited from them, that Presbytery will appoint 
a committee of their body to enquire into the matter before anything 
decisive may take place ; and that the majority of this congregation' 
how much soever they may be attached to Mr. Snowden, wou'd rather 
he should leave us as he found us, than submit to a dissolution of the 
union subsisting between us. 

" By order of a meeting of Paxtang congregation. 

"John Rutherford, 
"Joshua Elder." 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 33 

his distinguished grand-son, Major-General George R. 
Snowden, of Philadelphia. 

One of Paxtang's children, resident in the west, pres- 

SuppLicATioN Sent to Presbytery, 1796. 

" Paxtang, Jari'y, 1796. 
" To the Moderator of Carlisle Presbytery about to meet at Big Spring : 
' ' By order of the Committee of Presbytery which sat at Paxtang the 
3d of Nov'r last, the Congregation of Paxtang was notifyed the last 
Sunday but one which we had meeting that the sense ot the Congrega- 
tion wou'd be taken on the next Sabbath whether we wou'd adhere to 
Harrisburg tS: break the Union with Derry, or whether we wou'd con- 
tinue the Union with Derry & break off with Harrisburg. Accordingly 
after sermon last Sunday the heads of families were desired to attend, 
and alter the business was explained to them, we proceeded to take the 
votes of the People, & it appeared that a Majority of the Congregation 
was for continuing the Union with Derry and relinquishing Harris- 
burg ; they likewise chose the bearer Capt'n John Rutherford as their 
Commissioner to wait on Presbytery with this Remonstrance, praying 
that Presbytery wou'd grant us Supplies & dissolve the Congregation of 
Paxtang from their Obligations to Mr. Snowden & that he might discon- 
tinue his labors to them unless ordered to supply them as any other 
Gentleman. 



Supplication Sent to the Presbytery of Carlisle, 1796. 

" Paxtang, Sept. 3, 1796. 
" The Reverend Presbytery of Carlisle : 

" Gentlemen, — Whereas we are now destitute of the Gospel Ordi- 
nances being regularly administered to us, and what few supplies were 
alloted for us at the last Presbytery we fell short even of these on ac- 
count of the age and inability of one of the members appointed to sup- 
ply us ; We, the subscribers, in behalf of this Congregation who met for 
that purpose do most earnestly beg and entreat that Presbytery would 



34 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

ent here to-day, says of Mr. Snowden : " Those of Pax- 
tang congregation whose memories run back sixty 
years, will remember as an occasional visitor, this very 

be pleased to grant as many Supplies as they can with convenience ; 
we likewise wish that if there be any young or unsettled members be- 
longing to Presbytery these might be sent to us that we might have an 
opportunity of the Gospel once more regularly established and admin- 
istered in all the forms thereto belonging ; and your Supplicants as ia 
duty bound shall ever pray." 



Appeal of the Paxtang Congregation to the Moderator. 

" Paxtang, Oct. 1, 1797. 
" To the Moderator of the Reverend Presbytery of Carlisle : 

" Sir, — We again acknowledge our dependence and renew our request 
in praying Presbytery to give us such and as many supplies during the 
winter season as they can with convenience. The bearer, Mr. James 
Rutherford, is appointed our Commissioner to present this remonstrance 
to Presbytery and to answer such interrogatories as may be required of 
him. 

"Signed in behalf of Paxtang congregation by 

"Joshua Elder." 



Letter to the Moderator of Carlisle Presbytery, 1798. 

"Paxtang, Sept. 25, 1798. 
" To the Moderator of Carlisle Presbytery : 

" Sir, — The bearer, Edward Crouch, is our commissioner, appointed 
by the congregation of Paxtang to wait on the Reverend Presbytery of 
Carlisle with a call for the Reverend Joshua Williams for the one-third 
of his labors in union with Derry, whom we expect will apply for the 
remaining two-thirds ; likewise to solicit the Presbytery to gram us 
Supplies in the meantime. Signed in behalf and with the approbation 
of the congregation by Joshua Elder." 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 35 

worthy gentleman. In his sixties he looked hale and 
vigorous, grey eyes, iron grey hair, a full face, and 
weight one hundred and sixty pounds. The writer 
remembers his voice as strong and sonorous, and tliat 
he delivered his words with measured deliberation. He 
never failed to state to his auditors two facts. First. That 
Philadelphia was the place of his birth ; and secondly, 
that he had heard Independence bell ring on the 
morning of July 4, 1776." 

A call was then given to the Rev. Joshua Williams, 
who accepted the same, and he was ordained and in- 
stalled October 2, 1799, Derry to receive two thirds of 
his time and pay one hundred and twenty pounds, and 
Paxtang one third and pay sixty pounds. This pas- 
torate only lasted one year and eight months, ending 
on the 30th of June, 1801. Mr. Williams seemed to 
have had trouble collecting his stipends, for we find him 
complaining to Presbytery, in 1803, about his salary 
arrears. The moderator was directed to write to these 
churches and say, " that if these arrearages are not dis- 
charged before the next meeting of Presbytery, that 
body would be under the disagreeable necessity of with- 
holding from them that attention and regard which 
they pay to churches under their care." This did not 
have much effect, for we find them still unpaid in Sep- 
tember, 1805. A grand-son of his, Col. Joshua Williams, 
of the city of Minneapolis, has come to do reverence 
here to-day. 



36 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 



On May 29, 1807, Mr. James R. Sharon was installed, 
"both congregations agreeing to pay the same salary as 
that promised to Mr. Williams. 

In 1808, the "meeting-house" and "retiring-house" 
were put in thorough repair.* The latter, built about 

*As a matter of interest to their descendants, now widely scattered, 
we give the names of those contributing thereto : 
£ s. d. 



Robert Elder, . . 
James Cowden, 
Edward Crouch, . 
Elizabeth Gray, . 
John Gray, . . . 
John Wiggins, . . 
James Rutherford, 
Samuel Sherer, . . 
John Gilchrist, . . 
Samuel Rutherford, 
William Rutherford, 
Robert McClure, . 
John Richey, . • 
Thomas Smith, . . 
Susanna Rutherford 
Thomas Elder, . . 
John Carson, . . 
Josiah Espy, . . . 
James Awl, . . . 
John Allison, . . 
James Cochran, - 
Ann Stephen, . . 
.John McCammon, 
Mary Fulton, . . 



. 3 
. 3 
. 1 
. 1 
. 1 
. 2 
. 1 
. 1 
. 1 
. 1 
. 1 
. 1 
2 
. 
. 1 
. 
. 1 
. 1 
. 
. 
. 
. 

. 1 



15 

15 

15 

2 

5 

17 

5 

17 






6 

6 

6 

10 
10 
10 

10 
17 6 

5 

11 3 
10 
10 
10 

2 6 



11 



6 



15 
15 



15 
17 



Sarah Wilson, 
John Forster, 
Charles Chamberlain 
John Ross, . . . 
Michael Simpson, 
Jean Carson, - . . 
Joseph Burd, . . 
Robert Gray, . . 
Thomas Walker, . 
William Caldhoon, 
John Rutherford, . 
Michael Simpson, 
James Awl, 
Joseph Burd, 
David Patton, 
Robert Gray, 
Thomas Walker 
John Walker, 
Jacob Richards, 
Jean Wilson, 
Frederick Hatton, 
William Calhoon, 
John Finney, 
Joseph Wilson, . 



£ 
. 1 
. 1 
. 
. 

. 1 

. 
2 
. 1 
. 
. 1 
. 
. 6 
. 
2 
. 1 
. 1 
. 
. 
. 1 
. 1 
. 
. 1 
. 
. 1 



s. 

2 
10 
15 

9 
10 

7 

5 

10 
17 


15 



5 
2 
10 
17 
17 
10 
5 
11 



d. 
6 



^ 


6 


6 







7 6 





10 

2 6 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 



37 



the period of Mr. Elder's decease, was a small log build- 
ing near the church, used for meetings of session, and 
as a study by the pastor during the interval between 
the morning and afternoon service, and on week-days 
as a school-house. The " repairs " at this time consisted 
partly in the running up two board partitions, thereby 
creating a vestibule at each end, with the audience- 
room in the center. The partitions were of yellow pine, 
as was also the ceiling, which was placed in position at 
this time. The pews were left standing in the western 
vestibule, and were remaining within the memory of 
some of the present congregation. There was little 
uniformity in the Paxtang pews of that day, as each 
had been built by the family occupying it, and by their 
own architect. Two huge ten-plate stoves were placed 
in the long aisle, the smoke from which ascended 
through pipes to the loft, and made its escape as best it 
could through a small hole in the comb of the roof. 

Mr. Sharon was a man of eminent piety, and was 
greatly beloved by this people. His pastorate covered 
a period of almost thirty -six years, and ended only with 
his life, April 18, 1843. During these years the gospel 



Mary Rutherford, . . 


.0 


7 


6 


William Whitely, . 


. 


12 


6 


William Larned, . . 


. 1 








David Stewart, . . 


. 


15 





James Stewart, . . . 


. 


15 





Thomas McCord, 


. 


15 





Joshua Elder, . . . 


. 3 








Elizabeth Wills, . 


. 1 


10 





Thomas Buffington, . 


. 


15 





Hugh Stephen, . . 


. 


15 





John Elder, . . . . 


. 1 


10 





John Rutherford, . 


.0 


15 






38 Paxtaxg Presbyterian Church. 

of peace reigned, and little is left for the historian but 
to record the fact.* 

My venerable friend, Dr. Hiram Rutherford, to whom 
I am much indebted for information relating to the 
"long ago," gives me these recollections of this devoted 
minister : " The tall, lank figure of Mr. Sharon was one 
of the fixtures and features of Paxtang, sixty years 
ago. His soft, white, delicate skin, blue eyes, dark 
hair, narrow chest — his soft, weak but clear voice, hack- 
ing cough, etc., marked him as one short for this world. 
Yet he was punctual in his duties, preached good, sen- 
sible sermons, attended all christenings, marriages, and 
funerals. With all odds against him, he lived his three 
score and ten, and at last was gathered to his fathers, 
ripe for the harvest, with eternal 'sunshine on his head.' 
His residence was in Derry, and he usually came up to 
Paxtang of a Saturday evening. In winter he wore a 
dark colored overcoat, with a moveable cape. His 
lower limbs were cased in velveteen (dark) overalls, or 
as then called, cherre-valles. Mounted on his chestnut 
sorrel horse, with riding whip in hand, and that hand 
and arm at an angle of forty-five, he moved over the 
road at a steady jog trot, mile after mile, a slender, 
gaunt figure, so unique, that he was recognizable as far 



*Mr. Sharon preserved a full record of his ministerial acts— marriages, 
baptisms, admissions, and dismissions— which is printed in the Ap- 
Dendix to this volume. 



Paxtang Presbvteriax Church. 39 

away as he could be seen. At recess he staid in the 
log study house, generally alone, and in his passage 
thence to the church, he always carried his spectacles 
in his hand, greeting but few as he passed, with eyes 
bent on the ground before him. Then the loud call of 
Mr. Jordan would be heard, ' Mr. Sharon has gone in.' 
I have heard my father speak of Mr. Elder's passage 
under similar circumstances from the study house to 
the church. Mr. Elder was an austere man. As he 
emerged from the log building he carried in his hand a 
book, with his fingers among the leaves, and his eyes 
fixed ten feet ahead of him. With measured, deliberate 
steps, he looked neither to the right or left, and greeted 
no one on the way." 

On October 1st, 1844, the Presbytery of Carlisle met 
at Paxtang. A call was placed in the hands of Rev. 
John M. Boggs, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Done- 
gal. Mr. Boggs accepted, but asked that his ordination 
be postponed until the spring meeting, in order that he 
might attend the Theological Seminary at Princeton 
during the winter. His request was granted, and he 
was ordained April 9, 1845, and installed soon after as 
pastor of Paxtang and Derry. His pastorate was un- 
eventful, and was dissolved on October 6, 1847. 

The field was now vacant for a period of more than 
two years, during which time extensive alterations and 
repairs were made. The whole inside of the building 
was removed, the western door and the small window 



40 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

back of the pulpit walled up, new shingles placed upon 
the roof, and a floor laid throughout the entire building, 
the halls and ceiling plastered, the pulpit taken down 
from its perch on the north wall, and a new one placed 
at a much lower elevation against the western wall. 
New pews of modern style and uniform character were 
built, and the old pulpit, pews, and furniture, which 
had been in use since Mr. Elder's time, were sold at 
public auction. 

On September 28th, 1849, a call from Paxtang and 
Derry was placed in the hands of Rev. Andrew D. 
Mitchell, Paxtang promising three hundred dollars and 
Derry two hundred per annum. Mr. Mitchell accepted, 
and was ordained and installed April 10, 1850. Mr. 
Mitchell was a single man when he accepted these 
charges, but married a few years afterwards. Hitherto 
Paxtang had never needed a parsonage. Mr. Bertram 
lived near Derry on his farm ; while Mr. Elder and Mr. 
Sharon, who had occupied the field for a centur}^ were 
both practical agriculturalists and lived on their farms; 
and Mr. Boggs was unmarried. It now, however, be- 
came necessary to provide a house for Mr. Mitchell, and 
the present parsonage was erected, and was occupied by 
him during the remainder of his pastorate, which ended 
February 12, 1874. Near the close of Mr. Mitchell's 
pastorate the inside of the church was partly remodeled 
and arranged pretty much as it now stands. 

In November of the same year (1874) a call was made 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 41 

out for the Rev. William W. Downey by Paxtang, 
Derry having died out. Mr. Downey accepted, and 
was installed April 29, 1875. In 1878 this pastorate 
was dissolved, and the congregation for several years 
was acceptably supplied by the Rev. William A. West 
of Harrisburg. 

On the 16th of June, 1887, having previously accept- 
ed a call, the Rev. Albert B. Williamson, a graduate of 
Princeton Theological Seminary, was ordained, and 
continues in the pastorate. 

Intimately connected with Paxtang Church was the 
school which flourished from the earliest times down 
to the establishment of free schools in Dauphin county. 
It was never under the control of the church as an 
ecclesiastical body, but the same men who composed 
the congregation were the patrons of the school, and 
the building itself was the property of the congregation. 
It may therefore fairly be considered as an appendage of 
the church, and the old masters stood next in rank and 
dignity to the clergyman. Here flourished such men 
as Francis Kerr, Joseph Allen, Benjamin White, James 
Couples, Francis D. Cummings, and others celebrated 
in their day and generation as educators, and from 
whose instructions went forth many young men after- 
wards distinguished in every walk of life. 

Originally the congregation owned a tract of twenty 
acres in the shape of a paralellogram, whose length was 
about three times its width. Nearly forty years ago a 



42 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

portion of this tract was sold, leaving a square of six 
or eight acres, covered largely with forest-trees, among 
which are several giant oaks that were doubtless trees 
when Columbus landed on the shores of America. 
Near the center of the tract stands the church, the par- 
sonage occupies the southeast corner, and between the 
two lies the graveyard. In early times no distinct 
limits were set to the burying-ground, and the people 
buried their dead anywhere, according to their fancy, 
in the clearing to the south and southeast of the church. 
Graves were seldom marked, and a few years obliterated 
all trace of them. As families became j)ermanent and 
the number of these graves increased, more care was 
taken, tombstones began to be erected and lots fenced 
in. The want of uniformity, however, in these fences, 
and of regularity in the selection of lots, rendered the 
grounds very unsightly, as well as very difficult to 
keep clear of weeds and briers. This state of affiiirs 
existed until 1791-92, when the ground was inclosed 
by a stone wall, the greater portion of which is still 
standing. This wall does not by any means include 
all the graves of Paxtang. It did, however, surround 
all that were marked by tombstones or protected by 
fences. In 1819 a new roof was placed upon the wall ; 
the contractor was Matthew Humes. The ground en- 
closed had very nearly all been buried over once, and 
some of it twice before the wall was erected. In course 
of time, therefore, it became impossible to dig a grave 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 43 

without disturbing the remains of several of the un- 
known and forgotten dead. The old south wall was 
(then) taken down, and during the summer of 1852 
the grounds were extended ninety feet, and the whole 
covered with wood, and so it stood until the summer of 
1882, when the wall was again repaired, and a new 
roof of wood placed thereon. 

This church building is the oldest house of Presby- 
terian worship in the entire State of Pennsylvania. It 
has seen the revolution of years carrying away the 
generations of men, their habitations and their churches. 
Although the benches and the desk speak of modern 
origin, yet the doors hang upon the solid posts in unison 
with the stone walls, and while as now the storms of a 
century and a half have left their marks, give no signs 
of speedy decay. 

And now, my friends, after this summary of events 
transpiring in old Paxtang for one hundred and 
seventy years, let us go into yonder God's Acre, far older 
than the church itself. With our greatest American 
poet — Longfellow : 

"I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls 

The burial ground God's Acre I It is just ; 
It consecrates each grave within its walls. 
And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust." 

In my boyhood days there was over the entrance, on 
a semi-circular board these lines : 

"Persons entering this consecrated ground are en- 



44 Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 

treated not to walk or stand upon the graves or grave- 
stones—such to the living are sacred," 

Bearing this injunction in mind, we will simply look 
over the wall, for there is not a foot of ground where 
the dead lie not. To the left of the entrance and to- 
wards the north side are several generations of Elder ; 
to the east rest the remains of Parson Elder of blessed 
memory, — in the northwest corner his sons Colonels 
Joshua and Robert Elder, both men of mark in the 
Revolutionary era. East from this, not far from the 
center, rest the remains of John Harris, the founder of 
Harrisburg; and near by those of his son-in-law, Wil- 
liam Maclay, Senator from Pennsylvania in the First 
Congress of the United States. Close by and around 
the latter are those of his sons-in-law, Dr. John Hall 
and William Wallace. A little to the south of Elder's 
grave rest the Montgomerys, one of the oldest families 
in Paxtang; and on a line with them and to the south 
are the remains of Andrew Stewart and his wife Mary 
Dinwiddle, sister of Governor Dinwiddle, of Virginia. 
They were the ancestors of the Reverend John Stew- 
art, who, notwithstanding his early teachings by his 
Covenanter father, accepted ordination at the hands of 
the Established Church, returned to America under the 
auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gos- 
pel in Foreign Parts, missionated among the Mohawks 
in the Valley of the Hudson, became a loyalist during 
the Revolution, and from him have descended several 



Paxtang Presbyterian Church. 45 

of the most prominent personages in Canadian history. 
East of this line of graves is that of Thomas Ruther- 
ford, the ancestor of all the clan, many of whose de- 
scendants remain steadfast to the principles and wor- 
ship of old Paxtang Church — and one of whom, [Abner 
Rutherford, who died September 2, 1890, aged 76] the 
sturdiest oak of all, has recently fallen in the battle- 
storm of life; while farther east are the remains of 
William Brown, to whom the United Presbyterians are 
indebted for bringing to this country those staid old 
Covenanters Dobbins and Lind. Between these are 
the remains of Captain Crouch, Captain Cowden, and 
a little to the south those of Robert Gray, Captain Bris- 
ban, (jeneral Michael Simpson, and other heroes of the 
Revolution who fought and bled in defense of liberty. 
Eight generations lie in that myrtle-covered grave- 
yard, and yet they represent only a fraction of those 
who once worshiped in this place. The thousands 
who sought homes in the wide expanse of our glorious 
heritage, took deep inspiration here, and the influences 
for godliness which from this church have gone forth, 
will not be known until the Resurrection morn. This 
congregation may wander away, and this building pass 
into decay, but the teachings of the saintly men who 
have here gone in and out, will live on, forever, and 
forever!